(Reuters) – Satellite images show multiple new field deployments of armored equipment and troops from Russian garrisons near the border with Ukraine, a private U.S. company said on Sunday, in what its director said indicated increased military readiness.
The new activity comes as Russia extended military drills in Belarus that were due to end on Sunday, heightening fears among Western powers over an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The images released by U.S.-based Maxar Technologies, which has been tracking the buildup of Russian forces for weeks, could not be independently verified by Reuters.
“This new activity represents a change in the pattern of the previously observed deployments of battle groups (tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery and support equipment),” Maxar said in a release on Sunday.
Several large deployments of battle groups had been observed around the military garrison at Soloti, Russia, as of Feb. 13 according to satellite images, Maxar said.
Images on Sunday showed most of the combat units and support equipment at Soloti had departed. Extensive vehicle tracks and some convoys of armored equipment were seen throughout the area, the company said.
Some equipment has also been deployed east of nearby Valuyki, Russia, in a field approximately 15 km (9 miles) north of the Ukrainian border. A number of new field deployments are also seen northwest of the Russian city of Belgorod, Maxar said.
Based on the tracks and the snow, the activity appeared to be recent, Stephen Wood, senior director at Maxar News Bureau, told Reuters.
“To me it indicates an increased state of readiness,” he said.
(Reporting by Michelle Price and Costas Pitas; Editing by Daniel Wallis)